“To parents who receive a grant for their children,” begins a message copied and shared many times on Facebook. It tells parents that if they submit their child’s report card to the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa), along with a letter confirming where the child attends school, the agency will “supply your child with stationery and school uniform”.
Do childcare grant recipients really get free school essentials? What does Sassa say?
Old message dismissed as inaccurate
The message is not new. It seems to have started circulating online in January 2018. Three years later, the wording of new versions is almost identical. But being well-repeated does not make the message true.
In 2018, Sassa tweeted that the message was “NOT ACCURATE” and urged social grant recipients to ignore it. It said supplying stationery was “not within the Sassa mandate”.
Beneficiaries of social grants are urged to IGNORE messages currently doing the rounds, claiming that SASSA provides uniforms and stationery to school going children who receive the Child Support Grant. THIS IS NOT ACCURATE.— SASSA (@OfficialSASSA) January 12, 2018
Nothing has changed since 2018. In a press release on 14 January 2020, Sassa warned beneficiaries “to be wary of social media messages which sound too good to be true”, and to contact Sassa if in doubt.
The agency said the false claims affected service delivery “because Sassa officials have to spend time turning away needy people requesting school uniforms instead of officials focusing on delivering services”.
A year later, on 25 January 2021, Sassa again warned: “The agency does not supply any stationery or school uniform but ONLY provides social grants.”
SASSA warns Child Support social grant reciepients from the below fake news. The agency does not supply any stationery or school uniform but ONLY provides social grants . #SASSACARES @The_DSD @nda_rsa @GCISMedia @GovernmentZA pic.twitter.com/mbQKqdA8gE— SASSA (@OfficialSASSA) January 25, 2021
But if Sassa doesn’t supply uniforms or stationery, are there similar programmes that do?
Schools may apply for pupils in need
In 2018, Sassa said that school uniforms were provided as part of the social relief of distress programme, run separately to Sassa’s grant programmes. This should not be confused with the special social relief of distress grant established to provide relief during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The agency said certain criteria had to be met.
In particular, learners or parents can’t not apply directly for social relief of distress benefits. Instead, Sassa said individual schools that had identified pupils in need should approach the agency to ask for assistance on the pupils’ behalf.
A spokesperson for the Department of Social Development (DSD), which manages the social relief of distress program alongside Sassa, told Africa Check the programme still provided school uniforms to learners in need.
The DSD also confirmed that pupils and their parents couldn’t apply directly for this help. Individual schools identified by the Department of Education may request assistance for individual learners.
The DSD recorded that in 2019, Sassa awarded 443,687 social relief of distress applications in various forms, including school uniforms.
Sassa does help provide school uniforms to some pupils, but this is not done through any of its grant programmes. And parents themselves can’t apply for this help even if they get a childcare grant from Sassa.
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